GOP senator backs tax rate hike on wealthy
December 5th, 2012
06:09 PM ET
9 years ago

GOP senator backs tax rate hike on wealthy

Washington (CNN) - In a significant development in the fiscal cliff standoff, Republican Sen. Tom Coburn, a leading deficit hawk, said Wednesday he would support higher tax rates on wealthier Americans as part of a broader deal with President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats to avoid the crisis.

"I know we have to raise revenue," the senator from Oklahoma told MSNBC. "I don't really care which way we do it. Actually, I would rather see rates go up than do it the other way, because it gives us a greater chance to reform the tax code and broaden the base in the future."

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Coburn, who served on the Simpson-Bowles fiscal commission and participated in the Gang of Six deficit talks, was one of the first Republicans a couple of years to embrace raising revenue to reduce the deficit. At that time, he wanted to do it through reforming the tax code by eliminating loopholes and deductions that he argued favored the rich and powerful. But now he appears to be the first GOP senator to say publicly he would back increasing the tax rates on the wealthy, as long as that increase is coupled with spending cuts and entitlement reforms.

Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, both Republicans from Maine, said later Wednesday they, too, would support the tax rate increase on the wealthy, though they would like to see a caveat to "protect small business owners" who include their business income on their personal tax returns.

"I believe that very wealthy individuals-millionaires and billionaires-should pay a greater percentage of their income in taxes to help us reduce the soaring deficit," Collins said, noting that "In April, I was the only Republican to vote to proceed to consideration of a bill, the so-called "Buffett Rule," which would have imposed a new minimum tax on the very wealthy."

Coburn thinks its better to raise rates now, which will generate the money needed to get beyond the fiscal cliff and then negotiate broad reforms to the tax code – such as eliminating deductions and loopholes – that both Republicans and Democrats argue is necessary.

He is worried that if some reforms are made now as part of the fiscal cliff talks, Congress might never return to the table to do comprehensive reform.

Not surprisingly, Democrats seized on Coburn's unexpected new position.

"Senator Coburn is an unquestioned conservative," said Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-New York, in a news release. "If he doesn't provide cover for the Republicans to finally shift on tax rates, I don't know who does."

"Welcome to the Club," read a news release issued by House Democrats.

Filed under: Fiscal Cliff • Tom Coburn
soundoff (331 Responses)
  1. Ruben M. Cabrera

    The people have spoken. Quit the posturing! Obstruction has been rejected. After 300+ filibusters on even the most mundane matters, time for Congress to act in the best interests of the country.

    December 5, 2012 09:06 pm at 9:06 pm |
  2. CAWinMD

    I'm glad Coburn came out this way, but he won't sway other Republicans. They already believe he is damaged goods from a taxes perspective, so his coattails will not be long. But in the PR war, it's a good break for the Democrats.

    December 5, 2012 09:07 pm at 9:07 pm |
  3. Al

    I guess everyone can be bought, even a Senator.

    December 5, 2012 09:07 pm at 9:07 pm |
  4. Jim

    My God, Coburn has my respect. He truly cares about resolving problems rather than playing politics.

    December 5, 2012 09:08 pm at 9:08 pm |
  5. verycreative


    Some sanity. Hopefully, the rest of the GOP will catch on.

    December 5, 2012 09:08 pm at 9:08 pm |
  6. trex

    ........Smart Guy.....................Only 72% of AMERICAN VOTERS want higher taxes after $250K and smart CUTS. Come to think of it,.....isnt the Tpatty 28% of the voters.....................HUMMMMMMMMM...?

    December 5, 2012 09:08 pm at 9:08 pm |
  7. independent

    keep taxbreak 250,000 below
    tax rate 250,000 below including the tax break increases 0.5% every 250,000. putting a cap at 45%

    December 5, 2012 09:11 pm at 9:11 pm |
  8. nobootstrap

    The millionaires and billionaires in this country have been the recipient of all the tax breaks, industry bailout, no- bid contracts, wage depression, right to work laws and tax cheats. Since the 1950's, Federal revenue has been declining from 19% of GDP to the current 15% of GDP. America needs the money to reset the economy for everyone. The rich do not need an extra vacation home or private jet.

    December 5, 2012 09:16 pm at 9:16 pm |
  9. Genie Kennedy

    Mama mia... "Protect" small businesses whose owners net over 250k! Speaking as a small business owner, trust me, we do not need protection!. Small business owners should pay the same taxes as everyone else who makes over 250k – and thank you , Mr President, for stopping Republicans from continuing to raid the social security trust fund in order to fund income tax breaks to the rich.

    December 5, 2012 09:16 pm at 9:16 pm |
  10. Don W.

    Don't expect Senator Colburn to do another thing!

    December 5, 2012 09:18 pm at 9:18 pm |
  11. TimLasVegas

    And, so the continuous drum beat of taxes continues from the media. Every single headline is the same thing. Every single article is the same topic. Never mind that tax increases on the wealthy will, at best, reduce our annual deficit by about 8%. Just keep on printing article after article. Some people might think it wise to focus at least some attention on the other 92% of the problem, but for the media, no chance. Taxes, Taxes, Taxes!!!! And people wonder why we never solve any of the major problems facing our country.

    December 5, 2012 09:18 pm at 9:18 pm |
  12. independent

    keep existing tax rate for 250,000 below which increases 0.5% every 250,000, having a tax rate cap of 50%.

    December 5, 2012 09:19 pm at 9:19 pm |
  13. Squint

    As Professor Dumbledore remarked, in praise of Neville Longbottom, it's commendable to stand up to your enemies, but even more so to stand up to your friends. Well done, Mr. Coburn, Ms. Collins, Ms. Snowe. Now let's get on with it, shall we?

    December 5, 2012 09:19 pm at 9:19 pm |
  14. bkgrandma

    Am I the only one who is not surprised that Boehner wants to lower the cost of living raises on Social Security for seniors. The Republicans really believe that people on Social Security getting $700.00 a month should be the ones to take a pay cut so the ultra rich don't have to pay more taxes. They only care about the 2% and not the rest of us. I hope in 2014 the Democrats can take control of the House and put Boehner out of a job!

    December 5, 2012 09:19 pm at 9:19 pm |
  15. A.z

    I will free the life not just the tax game

    December 5, 2012 09:19 pm at 9:19 pm |
  16. America First, Party Second

    At last there is an intelligent and brave Repub. You want to be a dinosour, stick up for the 1% and ignore the 99%. Keep America "first".

    December 5, 2012 09:20 pm at 9:20 pm |
  17. GonzoinHouston

    Wow, Coburn of all people? That's major. This is a first salvo against the TP's by the mainstream GOP.

    December 5, 2012 09:26 pm at 9:26 pm |
  18. fryuujin

    does a increase in tax rate really mean more taxes paid by rich? exactly how does this work for the over 4000 millionaires that paid ZERO tax last year?

    December 5, 2012 09:30 pm at 9:30 pm |
  19. david conner

    Dr. Coburn is a great American, a courageous leader among partisan Republicans and Democrats fearful of backlash if they do know kow-tow to their extremist bases, to control-freaks like Grover Norquist, etc. Partisan politics is deadly for American; they have to compromise and do things for We the People. Term limits! Coburn for President!

    December 5, 2012 09:32 pm at 9:32 pm |
  20. Surfer George

    This is just the first crack in the Republican wall of fantasy. The first dribble from the collapsing dam. The first shot in a fusillade.

    Republicans are going to cave, they HAVE to if they hold ANY hope of keeping their jobs.

    December 5, 2012 09:32 pm at 9:32 pm |
  21. Wallaceboy

    Wow! What happened to doing something about the deficit? What about entitlements that can not continue? What about a few more Americans paying taxes not just half of Americans? Obama got elected on class warfare – hate for the successful. It worked. We need to fix things just don't ask me to do anything – let the "rich" guy do it. Even candidate Obama in '08 said we must deal with entitlements and a more broad based tax system. We are fat, we can not tell the difference between "wants" and " needs", we are open to debt, we ignore the next generation and we want the other guy to pay. Your man is in the WH, watch more reality TV and have a few more Cheetos – Don't forget to cheat on your taxes...

    December 5, 2012 09:34 pm at 9:34 pm |
  22. Edward

    Thank you Sen. Corbin. You show great leadership.

    December 5, 2012 09:37 pm at 9:37 pm |
  23. Mike

    The GOP asks the President and the Democrats to sacrifice something for the debt, and then in turn themselves must accept a sacrificial request from the President and the Democrats.

    It's called being a responsible civil leader.

    Let's see it get done.

    December 5, 2012 09:40 pm at 9:40 pm |
  24. longshot

    he'll be labeled a socialist

    December 5, 2012 09:41 pm at 9:41 pm |
  25. Ancient Texan

    If taxes are raised on the small business sector; those in the $250,000 bracket filing as individuals, expect layoffs of employees and cancelling of expansion plans. How will that help the economy or the deficit?

    December 5, 2012 09:43 pm at 9:43 pm |
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